LSU vs. McNeese

LSU football sophomore quarterback Max Johnson (14) waits to receive the ball from senior center Liam Shanahan (56) Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, during LSU’s 34-7 win against McNeese State University at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

Saturday night’s victory over the Cowboys was necessary for the Tigers, after a tough loss to the Bruins in week one, the Tigers bounced back and won their first home game of the season with a score of 7 to 34. The Purple and Gold will look to extend their winning streak in Death Valley this weekend against Central Michigan.

The Tigers played an in-state rival in week two, with injured o-linemen at the guard and tackle positions, but that did not stop them from handling business upfront. Even with a long injury report, there are still some minor fixes that need to be made concerning the quarterback and o-line positions.

A play I want to recall happened in the first quarter, around the 10-minute mark, when the Tigers had the ball around the 25-yard line on first down. The Tigers were set in a trip's right formation, with the halfback lined up in the backfield. McNeese ran a defensive concept very similar to LSU’s, and for this particular play they ran a two-man high or cover 2 scheme of sorts, but they were in a base defense. Max Johnson could not figure out where the open spaces were located, and the game moved too fast for him, hence why he got sacked on this play.

The offense may be trying to disguise their run or pass formations in their splits being so tight, but they could stand to widen out. LSU was looking to score early in the game because they fundamentally did the right things: decent pass protection and the five-men on the line executed their assignments. One drawback was that this o-line collapsed faster than it should.

Now for Max Johnson. He must get used to planting his foot and throwing the ball, even while under duress, keeping faith in his reads and not thinking as much about the throw.

Another issue that the offense, specifically the quarterback and center, must figure out is the snap. Many SEC defenses will not be as forgiving as McNeese, and if the quarterback can’t get his snap timing correct it will be a long, painful season. The most egregious example was on the fourth and one play where Johnson simply never gained control of the ball, and the center’s errant snap whacked Johnson on the helmet.

Moving to the defense, who is still working out the kinks of their schemes, it is hard to tell if we are a run or pass-stopping defense yet. From the first two games, I am not sure what our specialty ranges are, on too many passing plays players are scrambling downhill for the run and when it is a pass the secondaries react a little too slow to the play development, especially play-action passing. However, when they are focused on covering the pass the communication is great, which could be expanded upon in the upcoming games making the front seven very legit.

For the defensive backs, I still do not see that tenaciousness and swagger that DBU is known for. Cam Lewis and Cordale Flott had solid performances which lead to McNeese only getting 91 yards passing total for the night, however, that is all thanks to the defensive-line unit. This defensive line is by far the strength of the defense, arguably it possesses the depth to be one of the best in the SEC, as they almost broke the school record Saturday night.

On the special teams, Cade York is an outstanding kicker, the way he gets great arch on his kicks makes opposing field goal blocking teams nonexistent. The second half of this game was an absolute wash, the amount of film and details to gain insight from a game like this came predominantly from the first half.

A couple of things to take into the upcoming weeks for Tigers is to think about possible personnel changes at TE positions. Getting freshman Jack Bech real in-game practice reps as the No.1 option, he is another receiver out there when playing. Secondly, start fortifying running backs and receiver positions to gain a solid rotation for each game. Furthermore, Max Johnson has to be on the hot seat because he had a QBR of 47, and after Saturday’s game against Central Michigan, it only gets more real from here playing all SEC competition.

Coach Orgeron should not be satisfied with the results of this game because work needs to be done, as the team's problems are still prevalent. McNeese State is a lower-tier competitor, who also just played an additional season last Spring. The Tigers had a chance to make a statement and dominate the lesser competition, and that did not happen.

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